The Norwegian trend to diet in order to have small babies is the reverse in Sweden: Swedish women are birthing big babies. But this is because the number of obese mothers is increasing.

Since the 1990s, the number of women who are overweight has increased from 25 to 38 percent. This is a big challenge, because being obese, especially during pregnancy, increases obstetric complications, says Susanne Åhlund, of the Swedish Midwives Association (Svenska barnmorskeförbundet) and the Good Living Habits project.


Sweden has well-developed maternal health care where there’s a lot of talk about nutrition and the importance of eating well. It’s important to reach out with dietary advice to pregnant women at an early stage, Åhlund says. “This may be why we don’t have the same trend as in Norway, where one goes to the regular family doctor.”

At the same time, it’s important for women to focus on being lean and fit. A woman who is overweight need not go up much in weight during pregnancy, while a slim woman should gain more weight. “Eating for two” is an exaggeration, as energy requirements during pregnancy increase by only about 300 calories, which is equivalent to a snack.